Cause: Many infectious agents including viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Common agents are norovirus, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium. Bacterial agents are less commonly implicated.
Illness and treatment: Symptoms and treatment vary with the agent.
Sources: Sources vary with the agent. Waterborne outbreaks can occur from ingestion of natural or recreational water, including pools, interactive fountains, and untreated drinking water.
Additional risks: Risks vary with the agent.
Prevention: Test private wells at least every 3 years and after potential contamination such as after floods. If ill with diarrhea do not enter recreational water, pools, or interactive fountains.
Recent Washington trends: Waterborne outbreaks are often difficult to detect. There are 0 to 3 outbreaks reported each year, each with 2 to dozens or even hundreds of cases.
Purpose of Reporting and Surveillance
- To prevent tranmission from infected persons.
- To identify and correct sources of exposure for waterborne disease (WBD) outbreaks.
- To prevent further exposures to contaminated water and limit outbreaks.
- To expand current understanding of the transmission, pathogenesis and community impact of illness caused by known WBD agents.
- To identify new WBD agents, hazards or gaps in the water safety system.
Legal Reporting Requirements
- Health care providers and Health care facilities: Outbreaks immediately notifiable to local health jurisdiction
- Laboratories: No requirements for reporting WBD outbreaks; see disease-specific reporting requirements
- Local health jurisdictions: Outbreaks immediately notifiable to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Communicable Disease Epidemiology (CDE)
Note: Individual confirmed or probable cases of specific conditions may have other specific reporting requirements; refer to disease-specific guidelines.